Working in the crowded underground: One call services as a boundary object

Hayes, J and McDermott, V 2018, 'Working in the crowded underground: One call services as a boundary object', Safety Science, vol. 110, pp. 69-79.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Working in the crowded underground: One call services as a boundary object
Author(s) Hayes, J
McDermott, V
Year 2018
Journal name Safety Science
Volume number 110
Start page 69
End page 79
Total pages 11
Publisher Elsevier
Abstract The network of high pressure natural gas pipelines under our towns and cities operates with little public or academic attention. Since the pipelines are buried, they are largely invisible and awareness is low until there is a serious accident (e.g. Ghislenghien, San Bruno). Importantly, pipeline integrity is threatened by activities of third parties outside the pipeline sector such as local councils, other utilities and civil contractors doing work on other kinds of infrastructure. This paper focuses on how Dial Before You Dig (DBYD) - Australia's one-call service for those doing civil works - functions at the boundary between the social worlds of various relevant actors. Drawing on more than 50 interviews with those involved in work near pipelines, we conceptualize DBYD as a boundary object. The pipeline sector sees DBYD as an effective system that minimizes risk to their assets. Those working near pipelines see it as a system that should support their own business goals. Nevertheless, the interpretive flexibility of DBYD allows cooperation without complete consensus. The boundary object framework reveals three key aspects of the social architecture provided by DBYD - the extent to which temporal considerations vary, the way in which the system institutionalises conflict and how DBYD constitutes a form of surveillance by one sector over another. The paper argues that as more essential services, including those that are potentially hazardous, are located in the 'crowded underground' below our cities, it is more important than ever to understand how the relevant actors interact.
Subject Applied Sociology, Program Evaluation and Social Impact Assessment
Keyword(s) One-call services
Boundary objects
Pipeline safety
DOI - identifier 10.1016/j.ssci.2017.09.019
Copyright notice © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
ISSN 0925-7535
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